The other day, I sat down to work on a piece for a client, as I do on so many mornings. With coffee mug in hand and a fresh idea sketched out on my pad, I started in on Illustrator. However, no matter how hard I tried, I simply could not get the design to flesh out the way I wanted. I rearranged the design layout; changed the color scheme; and tore a few hairs out but still the design on the screen looked nothing like the image I had in my brain. Believe it or not, this form of designer’s block happens more often than you might think.

Like any profession, occasionally you’ll find yourself stuck in a rut, unable to produce work. When this happens, there are steps you can take to improve the situation. Starting with:

  1. Get Outside, and Go For a Walk: First and foremost, try exercising. This doesn’t mean you have to apply for a membership down at the 24/7 fitness megathon but you should at least get outside for a bit and stretch your legs. This isn’t just for your health: Moving your muscles also pumps more fluids to your brain and core organs. In the end, this makes you sharper, more focused, and much livelier. It could be you were simply tired and unable to think properly. Stretch your feet and brain and you might find the designs start flowing like water.
  2. Do the Dishes: We all have a mountain of dirty dishes stashed in the sink, especially freelancers. If you find yourself stuck on a design, get out of the office and do a few (or all) of the dishes you’ve accumulated. This isn’t just for the sake of your house’s looks, though: Doing something monotonous but easy frees up your brain to continue to puzzle over the design. Out of this latent puzzling, you may find a new design has blossomed, and is ready for production.
  3. Read a Magazine: Really, we’re saying you should look for some source of inspiration, if you’re feeling stuck. But perhaps the best source we know of is a simple magazine. Magazines are chock full of advertisements, typography, layouts, and photographs. They’re a great way to find out what’s popular, as well as to flesh out any ideas that might be resting in the back of your noggin.